So, what does it take for a country to be crowned most beautiful? It’s a mixture between natural landscape and feeling. Scotland is not just another part of the British Isles, but a place of pilgrimage for travellers from all corners of the Earth.
The fiery, smoky, delicate, eye-watering whiskies—the forested mountains— the fathomless, cold lochs—the colourful tartan—the rich folklore.
Yes, Scotland is not only aesthetically striking but spiritually irresistible. With Scotland, comes our dreams of Europe’s untamed frontier. A place to lose, and find yourself, in the backwoods, in the glens.
In all of Scotland, the West Highlands are arguably the most beautiful part of the most beautiful country. Below are eight pieces of strong evidence.
If ever there was an image for a Scotland fan poster, Glencoe is it. Driving on the A82 from the Trossachs, over the crest of an innocent hill—there it is. Glencoe fills your vision, it’s precipitous sides light and dark, black rock and grass—reaching skyward.
This jaw dropping experience is cinematic and quintessentially Scottish. Although rather than creeping through Glencoe, why not stop at the Glencoe visitor’s centre for some lunch. You can also find out more about Glencoe history, wildlife, and walks.
The mountain with its head in the clouds. Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the UK at over 4,400 feet above sea level. It marks the tail end of the Grampian Mountains.
Of course, you don’t have to summit it. However, it’s well worth the day it will take to hike up and down, because the view is awesome. Not in the slang sense, in the real existential sense.
If you choose to head up, see if you can spot the abandoned observatory last occupied during the early 20th Century…
Loch Lomond & The Trossachs
Loch Lomond and The Trossachs are where the lowlands of Scotland, with their lush rolling fields end, and the kingdom of the Highlands begins. Although this national park is not technically part of the Scottish Highlands, if you miss it on your Highlands journey, it would be like sneaking in the backdoor.
The Trossachs, which surround the fresh blue waters of Scotland’s largest loch, Loch Lomond, are a place of secret pine and deciduous woods, inhabited by red squirrels. Think of them like a pretty garden, where beyond its boundary, is a sublime wilderness.
On the shores of Loch Lomond, the beauty of the national park unites. The way the surrounding peaks filter soft burnished rays over its surface is mesmerising. Truly a bonnie place, fit for love songs.
The Great Glen
Stretching almost coast to coast, from Fort William to Inverness, is Scotland’s Great Glen— containing not only the highest mountain, but the deepest loch—Loch Ness. Loch Ness, home to a mythical monster, contains more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined.
At its deepest point Loch Ness stretches down to the shadowy depth of 230m.
The Great Glen is a grand rift, caused by the clashing of tectonic plates and the rising of the Scottish Highlands. It is a natural route across Scotland, so historically was ferociously fought over.
These days, it’s home to the Caledonian Canal and a very peaceful place, frequented by canoeists, cyclists, and hikers. It’s 62 miles of rugged, forested mountain side and without a doubt is some of Scotland’s finest scenery. Even if you don’t plan on stopping, if you’re travelling from east to west (or vice versa), this is the path you should take.
Eilean Donan Castle
On a jagged little island known as Eilean Donan, where three sea lochs converge, is one of the most photogenic castles in the world.
No other castle in Scotland quite matches it for atmosphere and impact. It’s the whole visual package; the faded stone walls and bridge, water all around, and as sunset hits—the ghostly outline of highland heights on the horizon.
A fun thing to do is travel on the A87 from Invergarry, without marking where the castle is and allow it to present itself to you. This way, the experience of seeing it for the first time remains pure. As if you’ve stumbled across it, a true adventure.
Become too focused on castles, glens, and lochs in Scotland and you’ll be overlooking one of its best natural offerings—beaches. Part of the Silver Sands of Morar, Camusdarach was made famous by the film ‘Local Hero’.
This film depicts the battle between a local community and an oil company looking to damage their landscape with a refinery, still relevant today. Luckily, as in the film, Camusdarach remains unspoilt.
Walking along, with the refreshing sea wind and looking out to the hazy shapes of The Small Isles and the Black Cuillin of Skye is beyond magical.
Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye is Scotland’s wild island and comes in near the top of the list for the West Highlands. It is now globally famous for its mystical fairy pools and the Old Man of Storr—a sharp rock formation above its capital town, Portree.
These flagship sights, despite their undeniable photo qualities, are simply one part of what makes Skye so alluring as a destination.
When you arrive, you’ll see that nowhere on the island is drab or unremarkable. This is a place sculpted by two colossal alpine mountain ranges, silken clouds pouring over their ridges. Skye is the embodiment of the thrashing ocean and misty upland.
Once upon a time you would have to brave the Sea of the Hebrides to reach Skye. With the creation of the Skye Bridge in the early 90s this all changed. If you’re in the West Highlands, it would be silly not to visit Skye, it was never easier.
The Ardnamurchan Penisula
Solitude. Peace and quiet. Untamed nature. The main lure of the Scottish Highlands. Although the reality is some areas are more untouched than others.
The Ardnamurchan Peninsula is one of these.
Here, you can get away from the intensities of modern life and immerse yourself in natural splendour. Ardnamurchan is diverse in its landscapes, including Celtic Rainforest, moorland, pristine lochs, and sandy beaches.
Being remote and not accessible by main roads Ardnamurchan is a haven for wildlife. It’s possible to see whales and golden eagles. A true indicator of ecological health